9 January 2019

India’s options and the Pashtun factor

Mohammed Ayoob

It’s rightly being pointed out that India has to be prepared for the potential consequences of the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan. While New Delhi is weighing its options it must take into account that for all its antipathy toward the Afghan Taliban, the latter does represent, in a distorted form, a facet of Pashtun nationalism. What has given added potency to the Taliban’s appeal is this: its ability to couch in religious terminology traditional Pashtun aspirations for dominance in Afghanistan as well as the aversion of Pashtun tribes to foreign interference in their land.

Invasion shifts power

China’s India trade funds its containment strategy

Brahma Chellaney

China is emphasizing public diplomacy to help soften Indian public opinion and mute Indian concerns over an increasingly asymmetrical trade relationship. Foreign Minister Wang Yi said in New Delhi the new people-to-people mechanism will “help consolidate the public-opinion foundation” for bilateral ties. China’s public diplomacy aims to underpin its “win-win” policy toward India — engagement with containment.

New Delhi, however inadvertently, is lending a helping hand to Beijing’s strategy of engagement as a façade for containment. India has done little more than implore China to rein in its spiralling trade surplus. The lopsided trade relationship makes India essentially a colonial-style raw-material appendage of the state-led Chinese economy, which increasingly dumps manufactured goods there.

The Truth About the Soviet War in Afghanistan

Gregory Feifer

When the Soviet Union shocked the world by sending troops into Afghanistan 40 years ago this December, few Western observers guessed it was more thanks to accident and blunder than a conscious decision to invade. Eager to foment a quick coup that would prop up a flailing fellow Communist government and prevent U.S. influence from filling a geopolitical vacuum, the Soviet leaders believed they were acting with surgical precision. They failed to realize that sending in troops, which they saw as a mere precaution, would be seen inside Afghanistan as taking one side in a burgeoning civil war—and by others as a land grab by a ruthless superpower.

Compared with Donald Trump’s bizarre ramblings on Wednesday, however, the Kremlin’s Marxism-colored delusions seem minor. His mischaracterization of the Soviet war contained no single scrap of truth, let alone logic. It was issued to justify an Afghanistan policy that risks undermining the very few gains almost two decades of Western-led effort have produced by ignoring lessons from both the Soviet and nato-led campaigns.

No, China Isn’t Winning the Space Race

Adam Minter

On Wednesday, China successfully landed its Chang’e-4 spacecraft on the moon’s far side — an impressive technological accomplishment that speaks to China’s emergence as a major space power. Understandably, some Chinese scientists are taking a victory lap, with one going so far as to gloatto the New York Times that “We Chinese people have done something that the Americans have not dared try.”

That cockiness speaks to the spirit of great-power competition animating the Chinese space program. China is open about the fact that it isn’t merely looking to expand human knowledge and boundaries; it’s hoping to supplant the U.S. as the 21st century’s dominant space power. And, if this were still the 1960s, when the American and Soviet space agencies fiercely competed against one another, China’s deep pockets, focus and methodical approach to conquering the heavens might indeed win the day. But the truth is, thanks to the development of a dynamic, fast-moving American commercial space industry, China’s almost certain to be a runner-up for decades to come.

In China, an Unprecedented Demographic Problem Takes Shape

On Jan. 4, 2019, Chinese state-affiliated think tank China Academy of Social Science released new reports indicating that China will experience negative population growth starting as soon as 2030. The reports anticipate that China's population will hit a peak of 1.44 billion in 2029, then steadily decline and reach its 1996 levels of 1.25 billion by 2065.

In light of this news, Stratfor is revisiting one of our foundational analyses from 2013, in which forecast China's impending demographic crisis and outline the contributing factors. In recent years, the Chinese government has gradually relaxed aspects of its one-child policy in an attempt to combat slowing population growth, but so far, progress in that area has trailed far behind the rate of decline in population growth.

Japan's East China Sea Nightmare: Too Many Chinese Fighter Jets and Warships to Counter

by David Axe 

The sheer number of Chinese warships and warplanes patrolling a disputed East China Sea island chain threatens to overwhelm Japan's own ships and planes.

The imbalance could get worse for Japan.

The Senkaku islands, which are uninhabited, lie east of mainland China, northeast of Taiwan and west of Japan's Okinawa prefecture. Their location makes them strategically valuable to China and Japan. Both countries claim the islands.

In 2012, the Japanese government bought three islands in the Senkaku chain from their private owners.

Tokyo's purchase of the three islands "enraged" Beijing, according to RAND, a California think tank. The acquisition spurred China's leaders to significantly boost military sea and air operations around the Senkakus, RAND explained in its 2018 report.

The US, Russia and China are managing cyber-war with vodka


In cyber-space, conflict is the norm when it comes to nation-states. Russia’s malware shows up on US power grids, and its online trolls try to influence elections. China, meanwhile, steals the personal data and intellectual property (IP) of leading American corporations. The US, for its part, has its hackers on a war footing.

So it may seem the prospects for dialogue — in this case, trialogue — are slim. Yet this is exactly what happened last month in Moscow among a group of former and current officials from China, Russia and the US. The ostensible purpose of the two-day meeting, hosted by the Russian foreign ministry, was to explore guidelines for conflicts within and among computer networks.

In the Trump era, this kind of parley has a political edge. The independent investigation into his campaign’s possible collusion with Russian hackers during the 2016 election has hung over the White House since President Donald Trump’s inauguration. Trump’s own efforts to launch a cyber-security dialogue with Russia were met with ridicule and shock when he first proposed it in 2017 after meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Talking Ourselves into a Cold War with China

by Simon Lester

Sometimes the latest turns of phrase in policy circles are just fleeting headlines, soon to be forgotten. As a presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton called for “ smart and fair trade .” But she disappeared from the political scene before we figured out what that meant.

However, other times they lead us down the road towards real changes in policy. Soon after the 9/11 attacks, Bush administration officials were accusing Saddam Hussein of being involved. At the time, the invasion of Iraq was hardly inevitable, and may not have seemed likely, but armed with the phrase “weapons of mass destruction,” the administration got the war momentum going, and that is the direction in which the country went.

Apple’s woes show US and China are taking hits in trade war — and that could push them to make deal

Patti Domm

The U.S. and China have a better chance of striking a trade deal, now that the U.S. is beginning to feel a bigger pinch from the trade war after Apple’s earnings warning and a sharp drop in U.S. manufacturing activity, economists said.  

There is a window of opportunity to strike a deal before the U.S. economy weakens further and China comes out of its slump later in the year, said one global economist. 

U.S. officials see signs of progress in trade negotiations, ahead of formal talks next week, and see a weaker Chinese economy as a catalyst for it to join talks. 

Apple’s sales shortfall in China and a sudden slip in the U.S. manufacturing economy are the latest signs that the Trump administration’s trade war with China is hitting home and that could help bring it to an end, some economists and analysts said.

China And Huawei Fight Back Against The West's 'Pride And Prejudice'

Zak Doffman

Although the US-China trade war has resulted in losses of billions of dollars for both sides, it is on the telecommunications and surveillance fronts that matters have become most heated. The stand-off between the US and China around Beijing’s alleged influence and control over its leading telecommunications and surveillance equipment manufacturers has made headlines in 2018, escalating with the arrest of Huawei’s CFO and diplomatic tit for tat follow-ons.

There are no signs of thawing tensions as we approach 2019.

Despite this, an annual survey published yesterday in the English-language Global Times, a Beijing-controlled tabloid, showed China’s relations with the US still ranking above anywhere else in the minds of its public. Although more than 80% of poll respondents did acknowledge ongoing action in the US and elsewhere to control China.

Raised Stakes In 2019?

Data Sheet—8 Predictions for U.S.-China Economic Relations in 2019


This is the web version of Data Sheet, Fortune’s daily newsletter on the top tech news. To get it delivered daily to your in-box, sign up here.

Rising tensions between the United States and China was one of the biggest stories of 2018. That rift promises to dominate global headlines again in 2019. Apple CEO Tim Cook cited it this week as one of the reason’s for Apple’s problems.

Herewith, eight predictions for relations between the world’s two largest economies in the coming year:

Trump and Xi will agree on a trade deal that forestalls further tariffs—but the accord will neither eliminate China’s trade surplus with the U.S. nor put an end to the trade war. The two sides are actively engaged in negotiating terms of a settlement. A final deal may well include substantial concessions from Beijing. Even so, the trade math hasn’t changed. There’s virtually no way China can buy enough American soybeans, jets, or natural gas to achieve Trump’s goal of reducing the Chinese surplus to zero. And it remains unlikely Beijing will commit to specific verifiable targets for measuring China’s performance in protecting U.S. intellectual property rights.

China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and Southeast Asia

Whether or not one calls it the new ‘Silk Road’ , ‘One Belt One Road’, the ‘Belt and Road Initiative’, or even just by its acronym–‘BRI’–there is little doubt five years after President Xi Jinping initially championed this ‘project of the Century’, that it has assumed enormous importance: first for China itself for whom it has become the centrepiece of its foreign policy strategy; secondly for the wider Eurasian region including of course Russia and Central Asia; and finally for the ASEAN countries themselves. For Southeast Asia as a whole the ‘BRI’ presents enormous economic opportunities. Yet, as a number of the contributors here point out, there are some really big challenges too. 

Why Saudi Arabia is Embracing a New Nationalism

Saudi Arabia is changing its restrictions on how some expatriates can practice Christianity as part of its strategy to weaken hard-line Islam's defining role in Saudi identity. In doing so, Riyadh increases the space for Saudi nationalism to take root, but an ascendant Saudi nationalism will also eventually challenge the monarchy's role in managing the state. Nationalism will increasingly color Saudi relations with other states and become a new check on the monarchy's power.

Saudi Arabia, long known for a society, culture and government steeped in conservative Islamist policies, has begun introducing a new nationalism that allows limited expressions of other faiths. The monarchy is hoping that by encouraging a broader nationalism, it can create space for modernization-focused social and economic reforms, which are a key element of the country's broader Vision 2030 plan. But while reducing hard-line Islam's role in the kingdom would have its benefits, establishing a more secular atmosphere also risks inviting a nationalist resistance to domestic government policies and imposing constraints on Saudi foreign policy

Why Isis is a bigger threat to France than the yellow vests

Gavin Mortimer

Where ever one looks in France at the start of 2019 one sees only ominous signs. In his New Year’s message to his people Emmanuel Macron issued a robust warning to the gilets jaunes, elements of which he described as ‘a hate-filled crowd’. Accusing them of having attacked the police, the media, Jews and homosexuals, the president vowed that ‘Republican order will be ensured with no leniency’.

That drew a swift retort from one of the self-styled yellow vest movement leaders, Maxime Nicolle, who in a facebook post, predicted an ‘armed uprising’, adding that ‘a lot of people are ready to lose their lives in the hope of a better future’.

Nicolle is one of the most bellicose of the movement’s leaders, along with Eric Drouet, who in December called on the people to storm the Élysée Palace, although he claimed subsequently that his words had been misinterpreted. Drouet, already facing a charge of carrying a weapon (a baton) on a previous demonstration, was detained again in Paris on Wednesday evening, as he headed toward the Champs-Elysées to place a candle to remember those who have died during the gilets jaunes protests. A video posted online shows Drouet being bundled into a van by several policemen.

From Yellow Vests to the Green New Deal


The grassroots movement behind the Green New Deal offers a ray of hope to the badly battered establishment: they should embrace it, flesh it out, and make it part of the progressive agenda. We need something positive to save us from the ugly wave of populism, nativism, and proto-fascism that is sweeping the world.

NEW YORK – It’s old news that large segments of society have become deeply unhappy with what they see as “the establishment,” especially the political class. The “Yellow Vest” protests in France, triggered by President Emmanuel Macron’s move to hike fuel taxes in the name of combating climate change, are but the latest example of the scale of this alienation.

There are good reasons for today’s disgruntlement: four decades of promises by political leaders of both the center left and center right, espousing the neoliberal faith that globalization, financialization, deregulation, privatization, and a host of related reforms would bring unprecedented prosperity, have gone unfulfilled. While a tiny elite seems to have done very well, large swaths of the population have fallen out of the middle class and plunged into a new world of vulnerability and insecurity. Even leaders in countries with low but increasing inequality have felt their public’s wrath.

Iraq, Iran, the Gulf, Turkey, and the Future: The Meaningless Debate over the Trump Strategy in Syria

By Anthony H. Cordesman

There is nothing new about the U.S. redoubling its efforts in the Middle East after it has lost sight of its objectives. There is even less new about the U.S. going on with the same efforts year-after-year without having any effective strategy. The U.S. has claimed to be fighting a "war" against terrorism since 2001, and has been fighting real wars in the Gulf region since 2003. It has also been blundering in Syria since 2011.

This is why the current debate over President Trump's uncertain statement that he would suddenly withdraw from Syria needs to be put in a strategic perspective. It is no more silly or meaningless than the past focus of far too many debates over US policy towards Syria. It also is no more lacking in relevance than virtually all of the previous U.S. debates over strategy in the Middle East and the Gulf since 2001. It is a debate over levels of effort in one country that have no clear strategic purpose, and that fails to come to grips with any of the many issues that should shape U.S. strategy in the region.

The Eurozone Is In A Danger Zone – Analysis

By Alasdair Macleod*

It is easy to conclude the EU, and the Eurozone in particular, is a financial and systemic time-bomb waiting to happen. Most commentary has focused on problems that are routinely patched over, such as Greece, Italy, or the impending rescue of Deutsche Bank. This is a mistake. The European Central Bank and the EU machine are adept in dealing with issues of this sort, mostly by brazening them out, while buying everything off. As Mario Draghi famously said, “whatever it takes.”

There is a precondition for this legerdemain to work. Money must continue to flow into the financial system faster than the demand for it expands, because the maintenance of asset values is the key. And the ECB has done just that, with negative deposit rates and its €2.5 trillion asset purchase program. But that program ends this month, making it the likely turning point, whereby it all starts to go wrong.

The Rise Of Eurasia: Geopolitical Advantages And Historic Pitfalls – Analysis

By James M. Dorsey

Asian players are proving to be conceptually and bureaucratically better positioned in the 21st century’s Great Game that involves tectonic geopolitical shifts with the emergence of what former Portuguese Europe minister Bruno Macaes terms the fusion of Europe and Asia into a “supercontinent.”

Yet, in contrast to the United States, Asian players despite approaching Europe and Asia as one political, albeit polarized and disorganized entity populated by widely differing and competing visions, may find that their historic legacies work against them.

Writing in The National Interest, US Naval College national security scholar Nikolas K. Gvosdev argued that the United States, for example, was blinded to the shifts by the State Department’s classification of Russia as part of Europe, its lumping of Central Asia together with Pakistan and India and the Pentagon’s association of the region with the Arab world and Iran.

France In Free Fall

by Guy Millière

French officials evidently understand that the terrorists are engaged in a long war and that it will be difficult to stop them; so they seem to have given in. These officials are no doubt aware that young French Muslims are being radicalized in increasing numbers. The response, however, has been to strengthen Muslim institutions in France. 

At the time President Macron was speaking, one of his emissaries was in Morocco to sign the UN Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, which defines immigration as “beneficial” for the host countries. Under it, signatory states pledge to “strengthen migrant-inclusive service delivery systems.”

A group of retired generals published an open letter, saying that signing the Global Compact was a further step towards “the abandonment of national sovereignty” and noted that “80% of the French population think that immigration must be halted or regulated drastically”.
The author Éric Zemmour described the “yellow vests” revolt as the result of the “despair of people who feel humiliated, forgotten, dispossessed of their own country by the decisions of a contemptuous caste”.

UK ranked second most powerful country in the world

By George Allison

The ‘Audit of Geopolitical Capability 2019‘ reveals that, aside from China, the major Western democracies – not least the UK and US, as well as France, Germany and Japan – still hold a substantial lead over their emerging competitors.

Building on the ‘Audit of Geopolitical Capability’ from September 2017, the new studyfrom the Henry Jackson Society provides an assessment of the geopolitical capabilities of twenty major countries, drawn from the G20, with the addition of Nigeria. The organisation say that as more countries have been added, the original framework and methodology have had to be refined, all the data can be found here.

The Henry Jackson Society say that this updated Audit reorders geopolitical capability – the ability to overcome the ‘tyranny of distance’ and influence physical space, including counterparts located within that space – into a framework with four central attributes: ‘national base’, ‘national Structure’, ‘national instruments’ and “national resolve’.

Why did Trump's love affair with US generals turn sour?

By Jonathan Marcus

Apparently, among President Trump's favourite movies is the Second World War epic Patton: Lust for Glory.

General George Patton was a charismatic, no nonsense and hard-fighting kind of officer. He got results but he was also self-absorbed and controversial - twice striking soldiers suffering from combat stress.

Is Patton perhaps, in the president's mind, the archetypal general? If so, then he will have been deeply disappointed by the raft of generals whom he appointed to his administration.

Indeed, we know that he was because he has said so, most recently castigating General James Mattis - his defence secretary - as a failure, who he had "effectively fired". General Mattis, of course, actually resigned.

How To Shrink The Skills And People Gaps

Sean Hackbarth 

“There’s no question that the American workforce is the finest in the world,” said Donohue. “But, if we are going to keep that advantage, if we are going to keep the promise of opportunity to future generations of Americans, we have some work to do.”

That work includes dealing with two factors that threaten continued American economic competitiveness, Donohue exclaimed.

“The first is a skills gap – too many people lack the skills or credentials they need to compete for 21st-century jobs,” he said. “The second is a people gap – too many businesses can’t find the workers they need, when and where they need them.”

Templarios: Echoes of the Templars and Parallels Elsewhere

Charles Cameron

Editor’s Note: This essay has been written specifically for Small Wars Journal—El Centro as part of an ongoing Los Caballeros Templarios de Michoacán research project that will be published as a future eBook.

Medieval to Modern: top, Jacques de Molay, last Grand Master of the Knights Templar, goes to the stake for heresy, 1314; middle, the complexity of Masonic sub-orders, a family tree featuring the Order of Holy Royal Arch Knight Templar Priests, top row, second left; bottom, screengrab, insignia of the Templarios cartel. Sources:http://time.com/4981316/friday-13th-knights-templar-post-truth/, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Masonic_bodies,and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rz6t2FEablA.

It seems appropriate to begin this overview of the appropriation of Templar symbolism from the original, medieval Knights Templar religious order by the contemporary Caballeros Templarios cartel by noting that the borrowing of ancient religious and military symbolism by more recent and questionable groupings is not uncommon.

In contemporary Pagan-revival Odinism / Asatru, for instance, a re-appropriation of Nordic mythology by far-right groups is not uncommon.[1]

Of Vinland productions historical reenactments, Simon Coulu reports in Vice:

Pentagon Seeks a List of Ethical Principles for Using AI in War


U.S. defense officials have asked the Defense Innovation Board for a set of ethical principles in the use of artificial intelligence in warfare. The principles are intended to guide a military whose interest in AI is accelerating — witness the new Joint Artificial Intelligence Center — and to reassure potential partners in Silicon Valley about how their AI products will be used.

Today, the primary document laying out what the military can and can’t do with AI is a 2012 doctrine that says a human being must have veto power over any action an autonomous system might take in combat. It’s brief, just four pages, and doesn’t touch on any of the uses of AI for decision support, predictive analytics, etc. where players like Google, Microsoft, Amazon, and others are making fast strides in commercial environments.

German cyber officials defend handling of mass data attack

Germany's cybersecurity authority has defended its handling of a mass data attack on hundreds of politicians, after criticism it did not tell the police about the breach for weeks.

The agency says it was not aware of the full extent of a systematic leak of information until Thursday night.

Journalists, celebrities and politicians, including Chancellor Angela Merkel, are among those whose personal data was published online.

It is unclear who was responsible.

The contacts, private chats and financial details of figures from every political party - except the far-right AfD - were posted on Twitter.

What Countries and Companies Can Do When Trade and Cybersecurity Overlap

Stuart Madnick, Simon Johnson, Keman Huang

Cybersecurity as a key issue for trade policy is a relatively new development. In the last few years there have been a number of news reports about various governments’ incorporating spyware, malware, or similar programs into computer-based products that are exported around the world. The governments typically have worked with private companies in their countries to do it. In the internet-of-things era, almost all products can be connected to the internet, and most of them can also be used for spying and other malicious activities. Furthermore, since data is considered a critical asset, services, from international banking to payment systems to consumer websites, are part of this too.

In late 2016 and 2017, for example, the voice-activated My Friend Cayla doll made headlines for its technology, which could be used to collect information on children or anyone in the room. In 2017 Germany banned the doll, alleging that it contained a surveillance device that violated the country’s privacy regulations. Another famous example is the 2010 Stuxnet attack on the Natanz nuclear enrichment facility in Iran. It was accomplished by planting malware, including Stuxnet, into industrial control systems that were shipped to Iran, resulting in the destruction of many centrifuges.

Fifty Shades of Yellow


Six weeks after they started rocking French politics and a month after violence erupted on the Champs Élysées, the Yellow Shirts remain both highly visible and highly enigmatic. The question now is whether the movement will find a political voice, and, if so, which one.

PARIS – Who are the Yellow Vests? What are the true roots of their uprising? And what do they want? Six weeks after they started rocking French politics and a month after violence erupted on the Champs Élysées, these questions are still hotly debated in France.

The Yellow Vests are both highly visible and highly enigmatic. Their rebellion started with the occupation of roundabouts all over the country, but it made headlines with violent demonstrations in Paris. They have kept the support of some 70% of the population and nearly three million have people signed up on the “Official Yellow Vests Counter” on Facebook, but their protests never exceeded 300,000 participants – far fewer than in past union-organized demonstrations against social reforms. They have been ubiquitous on the news channels but have no real spokespersons. When, at the peak of the crisis, Prime Minister Édouard Philippe called for a dialogue and opened his door, nobody showed up.

Rethink the ‘J’ in JPME

Not to brag, but recently I received the apex qualification a carrier aviator can achieve: carrier air wing (CVW) strike lead. I will pause here for your applause and affirmation.

Thank you. 

As part of this qualification, I took part in a ground-school–type series of lectures presented by subject-matter experts from the Naval Aviation Warfare Development Center. These lectures encompassed a lot of information with which I already was familiar but had not seen delivered in a purpose-driven format. One topic, however, stood out: the lecture on the BGM-109 Tomahawk land-attack missile (TLAM).

Here’s the Army’s latest electronic warfare project

By: Mark Pomerleau   

Europe’s increasingly contested environments have required increasingly complex electronic warfare planning tools. Vehicles, however, can’t house the power of command posts, so the Army is adapting an existing system for the tactical edge.

The Electronic Warfare Planning and Management Tool, or EWPMT, is a command-and-control planning capability that allows commanders and soldiers to visualize on a screen the effects of electronic warfare in the field. As part of efforts to provide soldiers additional capabilities for EWPMT ahead of the program’s scheduled add-ons — an effort dubbed Raven Claw — the Army received feedback that troops at the vehicle or platform level don’t need the full application required at command posts.

This feedback coincided with other observations from the Raven Claw deployment, which officials said were mixed.

World War 3: Hypersonic weapons pose real “challenge” to world peace, says expert


The dangers posed by such cutting edge armaments were highlighted after President Vladimir Putin said Russia had successfully tested its Avangard missile at 20,700mph (33,313kph) making it invulnerable to any form of attack. The issue was also referred to in by the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) in the think tank’s Strategic Survey 2018, edited by Dr Nicholas Redman and published in November. A hypersonic missile travelling at the speed Putin claimed (NASA classifies hypersonic as anything from Mach 10 to Mach 25) would be capable of travelling from Moscow to London – more than 1,500 miles away – in less than five minutes.

These weapons won’t change the way war is waged – but they will cut down on the time taken to get to a target, and the decision time for any attempt to engage or otherwise respond

Douglas Barrie